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Everything Working Parents Need to Know About the PUMP Act

On December 29, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 was passed into Congress and signed into law by President Biden. This law included the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, which expands the right to receive time to breast pump while at work, specifics on space requirements, and more to additional nursing employees than previously allotted in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). So, what changed? Here, we'll cover everything working parents need to know about the PUMP Act.

Key Information About the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act

The FLSA sets the guidelines for employers to process time worked when calculating minimum wage and overtime. It also covers record-keeping and child labor standards that apply to both part-time and full-time employees within the private sector and in all governmental sectors. State or local municipalities may provide additional laws, but every employer in the U.S. must act per the FLSA.

Although it was signed into law in late 2022, the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act didn't take effect until April 28, 2023. It's essentially an extension of the FLSA, where "most nursing employees have the right to reasonable break time and a place other than a bathroom that is shielded from view to express breast milk while at work." The rights are in effect throughout the first year after a child's birth.

Break Time for Workers to Express Milk

This means employees are entitled to reasonable break time whenever they need to express milk throughout the day. Employers cannot deny this request and must provide reasonable break time where employees can be completely relieved from their work duties if necessary. No specific time limitations are set since frequency and duration can vary based on individual circumstances.

Private Space to Pump

The space must be a non-bathroom space completely shielded from view so that employees can express milk free from intrusion from coworkers or the public. Bathrooms are not considered permissible locations and are considered a violation of the law. However, the space provided can be multi-purposeful as long as it's made available for employees who need to nurse when needed. Employees who work from home also need this space, meaning they can turn off their cameras or web conferencing platform whenever they need to express milk.

Who is Protected by the PUMP Act?

New amendments require that employers provide lactation break time and space to any employee who needs it. The changes extend coverage to nearly all FLSA-covered employees. Therefore, any employer covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must comply with the updated requirements of the PUMP Act. This usually refers to businesses with 50 employees or more but doesn't necessarily exclude smaller organizations.

Who is Still Not Covered?

FLSA or the PUMP Act does not cover contract workers. Some businesses (e.g., the railway and motorway industry) have three more years to implement the PUMP Act, which will go into effect on December 29, 2025. If creating accommodation would cause significant expenses (i.e., hiring extra employees or removing seats on transportation), employers may also file for exemption. You can read more about employer requirements here.

How the Department of Labor Determines Exemptions from the PUMP Act

Exemptions may be considered if enacting the PUMP Act resulted in significant expenses to the employer or organization after being required to make accommodations. Other exemptions apply to certain employees from specific industries, such as railroads (rail carrier employees or train crews), airlines (flight attendants, not airline workers on the ground), and motorcoach carriers, as it could cause safety concerns or unnecessary stops during transit. These employees may be entitled to breaks if State or local laws provide protection. Regardless, employers of all sizes must fully understand if their employees are covered by the PUMP Act to avoid fines.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the PUMP Act

To help you better understand the legal parameters surrounding break time for nursing mothers, consider some of the following most frequently asked questions.

Do requirements from the PUMP Act apply to small businesses?

A small business would not need to comply with the FLSA and PUMP Act requirements only if the provisions resulted in "undue hardship." Undue hardships are determined based on the "difficulty or expense of compliance for a specific employer compared to the size, financial resource, nature, and structure of the employer's business."

Are employers required to have a space on hand even if no workers need to express breastmilk?

An employer is not required to have a space on hand if no employees need to express breastmilk. However, space needs to be created as soon as it becomes an employee need.

What must employers provide to workers who need to pump at work?

Every employer affected by the PUMP Act must provide reasonable amounts of time for pumping breaks and a private space to express milk as often as the nursing employee needs. These requirements extend for up to one year after the birth of the employee's child. There aren't specifics regarding the length of each break, as they often vary across each pumping session. However, the employer must give the employee enough time throughout each workday. Moreover, the space provided for breast pumping cannot be a bathroom and must meet specific requirements.

Do workers need to use their breaks to pump?

If workers are going to use their break time to pump at work, they either have to be completely relieved from their duties or they need to be paid for their break time. If employers provide paid breaks to other employees, employees who need to pump must be compensated the same way that others are. For example, if all employees receive two paid 15-minute breaks daily, lactating workers can use those two paid breaks to pump. Then, if they need additional time to pump, the additional breaks do not have to be paid as long as the pumping employee is not required to work during those breaks. You can read more about compensation and break time here.

Can employees pump and work at the same time?

Yes, employees can technically pump and work at the same time. However, it's a requirement to provide lactation break time where employees are not required to work if they so choose.

Will the break time be paid?

Technically, if an employee performs work duties during the pumping break, it will need to be paid. Pumping time counts as time worked unless the employee decides to

Does the PUMP Act cover off-site work trips?

Yes, if employees take work trips outside of the office or workspace, the requirements of the PUMP Act still apply. Employers will need to arrange things in advance to ensure their team has the necessary time and space to pump.

What if an employer isn't complying with the law?

If an employer does not comply with the law and an employee is not completely relieved of their duties to pump, the employee can file a complaint. If a complaint is filed, the employee who made it cannot be discriminated against or discharged because of it. This gives employees more protection and the freedom to speak up against conditions that don't comply with the law. Complaints can be made to the Wage and Hour Division or internally—both are protected.

What happens if an employer violates the PUMP Act?

Employers who are found non-compliant may be required to provide legal or equitable remedies to the affected employee(s). This could mean "employment, reinstatement, promotion, and payment of wages lost in addition to any damages or economic loss."

Are there resources available to find more information regarding the PUMP Act?

For additional assistance understanding your legal rights and options, visit the Department of Government's Wage and Hour Division Website here. You can also call their toll-free information and helpline at 1-866-4USWAGE (1-866-487-9243), available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

After breast pumping at work, always follow the CDC guidelines to properly clean your breast pump parts and avoid any contamination. When choosing your breast pump, take your time during research. Find something that works for you and ask friends or family for recommendations. Remember that the Affordable Care Act requires that your insurance provider covers breast pumps, breastfeeding support, and other supplies you may need, and the updated PUMP Act provides you with even more rights for pumping at work. Byram Healthcare is here to help you find the perfect breast pump through your insurance coverage.